Wander logo

A Journey Of Joy With The Children of Tanzania

From Exhaustion to Elation

By Yvette BrandPublished 23 days ago 3 min read
The kids with the makeshift ball, a token of joy. Picture by me.

My feet ache and my energy is severely depleted by the time we arrive at the mountain village of Mtae in Tanzania. We’ve just walked eight hours, ascending about 1,000 meters in one day. It’s five in the afternoon as I attempt to wash my sweaty body with cold water from a bucket. For the first time in my life, I have to use a hole in the ground as a toilet and clean myself up afterwards with water and my hands.

The village in the Usambara Mountains we slept at for one night, picture by me.

When I signed up for this three-day hiking trip into the Usambara Mountains yesterday, I was confident in my ability, despite the locals’ advice: “You really need some hiking experience!” If only I wasn’t so stubborn... Now, exhausted and in the middle of nowhere, my legs give way. How I overestimated myself!

The way into the village, picture by me.

With great effort, I drag myself to the back of our guesthouse to enjoy the view. I collapse onto the barren grass, and less than two minutes later, an improvised soccer ball hits me on the head. I look around and see a few embarrassed and giggling children peeking from behind a knoll. So I laugh and beckon them to retrieve the ball. Startled, they hide behind each other.

The kids, moments after they had thrown the ball to my head, picture by me.

Despite every muscle protesting, I get up and walk toward the bush they’re hiding behind. As I approach, at least ten children dart out from all sides and form a giggling group behind me. I turn, bend over, and roll the ball towards them. They snatch it up and vanish behind the hill again. I try to engage them by laughing and holding my hands in a bowl shape, showing I want to catch the ball. The children exchange shy glances and scamper away.

I’ve just settled back onto my patch of dead grass when I see the ball rolling towards me again. The children, about ten meters away, hold each other’s hands tightly and avoid my gaze. I stand up to return the ball, and this time they throw it back.

Me with the improvised plastic bag ball

We repeat this, and they inch closer. They gaze at my fair skin and western clothes with fascination, tugging on my arm hairs. Their arms are hairless, and they are mesmerized by mine. Some begin talking to me, though I can’t understand them.

I switch to a different ball game, and they all join in, cheering and jumping in sync with me. They clamor for my attention, pulling and pushing from all sides. They start collecting small items and fill my hands with beer caps, leaves, papers, and all sorts of things they find. The little ones want to be lifted, while the older ones hold my hands. More children arrive, drawn by the laughter.

More children arrive.

I try to recall what I did as a child when I had no toys, but I realize I’ve never been in that situation. I feel deeply ashamed that these kids are having such fun with a ball made of plastic bags, while I only enjoyed myself with a game console.

Then I remember my elementary school gym classes, which were always fun. I gesture for the children to form a circle and start making silly movements. We hold hands, and they mimic my every move, loving it. I dance, jump, spin, and roll as if I hadn’t walked 40 kilometers today. The joy in the eyes of the now thirty children is priceless, making me forget my aching body.

Part of the journey up.

Exhausted, I collapse onto the grass, and immediately the children sit around me, each wanting to hold my hand. Meanwhile, a few parents have come to watch, and I become the center of attention in the village. I wonder what more I can do for these children who have already captured my heart.

I decide to teach them some English, counting to ten while pointing at the bracelets I’ve collected from my travels. They pick it up quickly, and within ten minutes, half the group can count “one, two, three” with my help.

More and more kids are joining us.

It’s now dark, and I hear parents calling their children home. They cling to me, still shouting “one, two, three!” I take off my bracelets and give them to the children. They run to their parents to show off their new treasures, then return to thank me with big hugs and wide smiles. After saying goodbye to each child, they run off cheerfully, waving until they disappear from sight.

Walking away on the dusty roads.

I realize I’m deeply touched by the pure joy these children find in the simplest things, despite having so little. With a full heart, I settle back onto the dry grass. My body no longer aches, and my mind is filled with the innocent happiness of childhood.

This evening has changed my perspective on happiness, and for that, I am eternally grateful to these children. I lie in bed with an unbeatable feeling of satisfaction, eagerly anticipating the next physical challenge tomorrow.

We reached the top the next day!

activitiestravel photographyfemale travelbudget travelafrica

About the Creator

Yvette Brand

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights


There are no comments for this story

Be the first to respond and start the conversation.

Sign in to comment

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2024 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.